False reflexives III: Italian grammar lesson

Lesson 156

Key Takeaways

Readers will learn about the different forms and rules of false reflexives in Italian, specifically focusing on the forma pronominale.

  • False reflexives are verbs that appear reflexive but aren’t, such as abbronzarsi and pentirsi.
  • The forma pronominale uses particles like mi, ti, ci, si, and vi as integral parts of the verb.
  • These verbs function as intransitive verbs and do not require a direct object.
  • Some verbs can exist in both transitive and intransitive forms, changing their meaning accordingly.
  • Verbi pronominali are conjugated similarly to reflexive verbs in both present and past tenses.

Quick facts

What distinguishes false reflexives in Italian?

False reflexives appear like reflexive verbs but lack reflexive meaning, functioning more like intransitive verbs.

How do particles function in pronominal verbs?

In pronominal verbs, particles like mi, ti, ci, si, and vi are integral to the verb's existence and meaning.

Can pronominal verbs exist without their particles?

No, pronominal verbs do not make sense without their particles, unlike reflexive verbs.

Do pronominal verbs need a direct object?

No, pronominal verbs are intransitive and do not require a direct object.

How does "abbronzarsi" differ in meaning from its non-pronominal form?

"Abbronzarsi" means to get tanned, while there is no non-pronominal form of this verb.

What is the difference between "addormentarsi" and "addormentare"?

"Addormentarsi" means to fall asleep (intransitive), while "addormentare" means to make someone fall asleep (transitive).

How does "svegliarsi" differ from "svegliare"?

"Svegliarsi" means to wake up (intransitive), whereas "svegliare" means to wake someone up (transitive).

Are pronominal verbs conjugated differently from reflexive verbs?

No, pronominal verbs follow the same conjugation rules as reflexive verbs.

How is "pentirsi" used in a sentence?

"Pentirsi" means to regret or repent, e.g., "Ci siamo pentiti di non essere venuti" (We regretted not coming).

What is an example of a pronominal verb expressing a state or condition?

"Mi vergogno" (I am shy) uses the pronominal verb "vergognarsi" to express a state.

Audio images

Mi sono accorto di aver lasciato le chiavi in macchina.
Non si accorgevano di nulla.
Mi annoio molto facilmente se non ho nulla da fare.




Mi lavo le mani.

I wash my hands.

Mi metto il cappotto.

I put on my coat.

Mi sveglio alle sette.

I wake up at seven.

Mi pettino i capelli.

I comb my hair.

Mi tolgo le scarpe.

I take off my shoes.

My Thoughts

False reflexives in Italian

As we have seen in the previous lessons, the riflessivi impropri, or false reflexives, are verbs that look like reflexives but are not. They can take 3 forms:

Mi sono accorto di aver lasciato le chiavi in macchina.

Non si accorgevano di nulla.

Forma pronominale: Explained

In the pronominal form, the particles mi, ti, ci, si, and vi do not give the verb a reflexive meaning, but they are an integral part of the verb itself, which does not exist without them.

These verbs are called verbi pronominali, and they have the same value and function as intransitive verbs, which means they do not need a direct object.

Non voglio entrare, mi vergogno.

I don’t want to go in, I am shy.

Ci siamo pentiti di non essere venuti.

We regretted the fact we did not come.

Ti sei abbronzata!

You got tanned!

As you can see in the examples above, these verbs use the same particles as reflexive verbs, but they do not have a reflexive meaning.

Mi annoio molto facilmente se non ho nulla da fare.

Forma pronominale: Rules

As we explained earlier, in these verbs, the particle is simply an integral part of the verbs, which do not exist (and would not make sense!) without them:

  • Abbronzarsi (to get tanned)
  • Pentirsi (to repent/regret)
  • Accorgersi (to notice)

Some verbs can also exist both in a transitive reflexive form and an intransitive pronominal form. Note that they change their meaning in two different forms.

  • Transitive: addormentare (to make someone fall asleep)
    Intransitive: addormentarsi (to fall asleep)
  • Transitive: svegliare (to wake someone up)
    Intransitive: svegliarsi (to wake up)
  • Transitive: annoiare (to bore)
    Intransitive: annoiarsi (to be bored)


Forma pronominale: Conjugation

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Even if they have a different meaning and function, the verbi pronominali are conjugated in the same way as all reflexive verbs:

(to fall asleep)
(to get bored)
(to regret)
io mi addormento mi annoio mi pento
tu ti addormenti ti annoi ti penti
lui, lei si addormenta si annoia si pente
noi ci addormentiamo ci annoiamo ci pentiamo
voi vi addormentate vi annoiate vi pentite
loro, Loro si addormentano


si annoiano si pentono


Passato Prossimo
(to fall asleep)
(to get bored)
(to regret)
io mi sono addormentato/a mi sono annoiato/a mi sono pentito/a
tu ti sei addormentato/a ti sei annoiato/a ti sei pentito/a
lui, lei si è addormentato/a si è annoiato/a si è pentito/a
noi  ci siamo addormentati/e ci siamo annoiati/e ci siamo pentiti/e
voi  vi siete addormentati/e vi siete annoiati/e vi siete pentiti/e
loro, Loro si sono addormentati/e si sono annoiati/e si sono pentiti/e

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions


What are the reflexive verbs in Italian?

Reflexive verbs require a bit of a different approach when it comes to conjugation. You'll need to use reflexive pronouns such as 'mi', 'ti', 'si', 'ci', 'vi', and 'si' in front of each conjugation.

What is a false reflexive verb in Italian?

In Italian grammar, there are some verbs that may appear to be reflexive, but they are actually not. These are known as false reflexives.

What is the pronominal form of a verb in Italian?

In the pronominal form, the particles mi, ti, ci, si, and vi are essential components of the verb but do not provide it with a reflexive meaning. In other words, these verbs cannot exist without these particles.

Italian word of the day
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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